Search Me, Oh God!
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)
There is no doubt that Jesus wants us to do good things for others. He wants us to love our neighbors and to give to those who have needs. That’s just a part of what it means to follow Him. But Jesus never looks just at the outward act of righteousness. He focuses instead on the intentions of our hearts. Why are we helping others? Is it to be well-thought of, or is it an act of worship before the Lord?
Most of the Sermon on the Mount deals with doing right things with right motives. Jesus never wants us to focus on just the horizontal, whether it is giving, fasting, or praying. Instead, the call is to do these acts vertically. Look to the Lord to engage in deeds of service and kindness as acts of worship, desiring His pleasure and not the affirmations or thanks from others.
One of the more challenging aspects of following Christ is to rightly discern our own reasons for doing what we do or saying what we say. If you are like us, we can both recall times in our lives when we have done or said “good things” not because of the call of Christ, but to be liked or thought well of. We have gone the extra mile so that another will do something for us in return rather than because it is commanded by Jesus.
Even when we think we don’t want acknowledgment or thanks for our actions, so often, deep inside, we wonder why nobody said anything. It’s precisely here where prayer enters in. We ask the Lord to examine our hearts. Praying Psalm 139:23-24 is helpful:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
The Lord is not constrained by the selfishness of our own desires and when we ask Him to search us . . . He will. As His Spirit reveals to us the ways we continue to do or say things for wrong reasons, we are being given the opportunity to repent and return to selfless service that honors the Lord.
Listen: Spend a few quiet moments seeking God. Be attentive to whatever He may speak to your heart.
Reflect: How is the Spirit leading you to respond to what you have heard from God?
Confess and Repent: If there is something the Spirit convicts you of, take time to prayerfully confess it. Resolve to turn from it if it is sin, or step toward whatever He is leading you into that you have either neglected or not seen before.
Ask: Thank You, Lord, for giving me the privilege of serving others. Your Word says that You came not to be served but to serve. I want to serve others so that I will become more like You. Guard my heart Lord, that my service would not be to attract attention to myself, but instead to You. Search my heart and see if there is any offensive way in me. Show me how to serve others so that my left hand does not know what my right hand is doing.
- Consider what it means to have a servant’s heart. Is there something you have put off doing to help another that would please God, but which has seemed like a waste of time, or unimportant to you? Determine to do this act as soon as you possibly can.
- Do you feel that certain activities are for others but not for you? If you are in a position of authority over one or more people, consider ways that you can serve them today. Get someone a cup of coffee who usually brings you one. Clean up a mess that isn’t yours, etc. If you are the one who is under the authority of another, find ways to serve that person that are not expected of you.
- Take time to daily pray through Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Our horizontal striving is always offensive to God if not done with a vertical focus. Ask God to show you how to change your behavior to reflect His glory!
Taken from Vertical with Jesus by David and Kim Butts. © 2022 PrayerShop Publishing.